Saturday, 26 January 2013

From Songfacts: Have I Told You Lately

From the great Songfacts site we have comments by people all over the world about this song.  The first comments are general ones from Songfacts with no writer indicated.  Songfacts has been mentioned on this blog before and is a must for anyone looking for extra information and listener opinions about songs.   
Songfacts   -   This song is widely considered to be about Van Morrison's relationship with God and religious convictions. In a 2009 Q&A in Time magazine, Morrison said, "Religion is a kind of word game. It's whatever it means to those individuals who are following that belief system. If you say something has got spirit or "I feel the spirit," to me, that would be more appropriate - spirit in the Aristotelian sense, that the mind and body and spirit are one thing. Which is different from religion."
Songfacts   -   Rod Stewart performed this on his MTV Unplugged special in 1993 and released this acoustic version on his album Unplugged... And Seated.  This version was a big hit, going to #5 in both the US and UK.

Songfacts   -   There is a Country song from the '40s called "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," which was recorded by Elvis Presley, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby and Ray Price, but that's a completely different song. That one was written by Scotty Wiseman.
Songfacts   -   Morrison recorded this song with The Chieftains in 1995. This version appeared on the group's album The Long Black Veil and earned a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

Reader Comments

DJ (Manchester)   -   Words and meaning are totally different. Even if the music was a bit similar in melody, not sure I'm not that old..I'm sure Van brought it into his own and embellished on top of that.  All of Van's music Rocks and this ballad takes the cake.

Darren (Arizona)   -   Great song. First heard it on the beach down south in '89. Good times.

Elizabeth (Georgia)   -   This song is actually titled "Have I Told You Lately" and should not be confused with the Scotty Wiseman song "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?", released in 1945.
Carl (Manchester)   -   Me and a mate are in disagreement about this record. I'm a Rod fan and hes a Van fan.The thing is when Rods version was out it was said that it was the most played record on American radio, at the time . My mate wont accept this.

Malachi (Dublin)   -   Poor, guy. Why is he always so heavily criticised? I'm a forever fan! None of this nonsense could sway me in the least! He is an amazing artist and that's all I need to know. His personal life is his business. I don't want to speculate about his thoughts as he writes his lyrics. Why should you? Leave the man alone and just enjoy his music--I say!

Daniel (Pretoria)   -   Hi you guys, I don't think you have heard Elvis's version of the song it is still the best. Better than all the rest and I have heard all of them. But I am still confuse - how actually wrote the song - because on the Wikipedia it seems like it was done in the 1930's by Scotty Wiseman and belief me it is identical. O! yes even Jim Reeves does a good job of it.
Ellen (New Hampshire)   -   Two different songs with the same title. If you research a little further the lyrics are different. The one by Scotty Wiseman Was a country song. It was the greatest hit of Wiseman and his wife and one of the first country music songs to attract major attention in the pop music field. Recorded by many artists including Gene Autry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Booby Vinton, Elvis and Barry Manilow. The other is by Van Morrison and included on his 1989 album Avalon Sunset. It is a romantic ballad often played at weddings although it was originally written also as a prayer.

Martie (Virginia)   -   Okay, I googled it and found out:  1. It is #6 (Van's original) on a list of most popular 1st dance wedding songs in the UK. 2.  Van Morrison and The Chieftains won a Grammy Award in 1996 for "Have I Told You Lately". 3. It was on a list of the 100 greatest love songs of all time.

Tay (Iowa)   -   This song was written by Scott Wiseman, Gene Autry first recorded it, then Bing Crosby with the Andrew Sisters and Van Morrison brought it back in 1989. It's an old song redone and guess what? It's on Barry Manilow's supplemental CD with the Greatest songs of the '70's. Don't believe me?

Carla (Tennessee)   -   I heard many years ago on the Top 40 count down that this song was about the artist's relationship with God - but I assumed the DJ meant Rod Stewart; I am glad to see that it is someone else (Van Morrison) because Rod Stewart sure wasn't coming across as a Christian. I have not heard Van Morrison sing this, but look forward to it.

Ian (Liverpool)   -   It just shows that Dumb-ass old Rod misunderstood the song in the first place along with the rest of the world. Like the retards that have it at their wedding but only had a civil ceremony because they don't believe in God..durr. One has to remember that Roderick David Stewart, born January 10, 1945), was born and raised in London, but reckons he's Scottish. I rest my case.

Leah (Brooklyn)   -   Van Morrison may very well be the most blatant hypocrite in music. The man has written and recorded spiritual songs for nearly 20 years, yet is an apologetic and abrasive misanthrope of legendary proportion. No one is exempt from his wrath--not previous lovers, fans, or even other musicians he so often accuses of stealing his style, like Springsteen and Segar. His disgust with the music business that supports him spills out in dozens of songs like "Why Must I Always Explain," "Professional Jealousy," "Take Your Hand Out Of My Pocket" and as far back as '66, in the cynical blues song "The Big Royalty Check." It often seems to border on paranoia. The contrast of such vicious diatribes with his spiritual declarations in "Be Thou My Vision" or "Whenever God Shines His Light" often seems ludicrous.

Helen (Virginia)   -   By the way, Leah uses the word diatribe for Van Morrison, and the definition is "A BITTER, ABUSIVE DENUNCIATION". Hum, sounds like LEAH, too!!! The songs she listed in her diatribe are not about the music industry! Morrison to this day has never received a penny for Brown Eyed Girl. Where is the ROYALTY CHECK?

JD (Tampa)   -   Van is not necessarily the superior songwriter of the two. Rod has written very soul-wrenching stuff as well (Mandolin Wind, Scarred and Scared, I Was Only Joking, to name very few). Thing is, as noted from a big Rod Stewart fan, his "best" rarely makes the airwaves. Van's does, and Van's his own man. As for this song, Van sings it best, and yes, I believe it was written as a praise to God; Rod (being Rod), took it in a more earthly direction (his blonde of the moment)!

Paul Gimlik (Hereford)   -   How on earth can you refer to Van Morrison's version as schmaltzy? Van wrote the song and knows, therefore, how it should be sung!

Scott (Ohio)   -   This song was written by Van Morrison and it's much better served by himself than some hack artist who makes his money doing remakes with his bleached, scratchy voice. IMO, the only thing "Rod" Stewed was a pot of big dung, that was the commercial music industry. Van Morrison actually wrote this song in light of his spiritual love with God. Van's music proves to be genius no matter how you choose to relate great music does.

Jonathon Brown (Indiana)   -   The person who wrote that song is Scotty Wiseman and he is my 6th cousin.

AJ (Georgia)   -   Van did the best version, but Rod's voice was made for it.

Stefanie Magura (South Carolina)   -   I haven't heard Van Morrison's version, but I think he has written better songs than this one. Rod did a good job,but I've never been a huge fan of his work.

Shaun (Montana)   -   Van Morrison is of course a great singer and songwriter. However his version is schmaltzy and dull. It took Rod to make it a good song and give it some soul. Even so, Van has written a gazillion songs better than this one.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Translating From the Japanese

Translation software has made great strides in the last 10 years.  The following post is from a guy called Don Drummond who writes well in Japanese.  The problem is when you push the 'translate' button.  Japanese script is quite complex with basically any piece of writing consisting of characters drawn from three different writing systems.      






Van Morrison Moondance
About Van Morrison, but somehow it did not work so far has forefinger, flows in the hour mishearing "Crazy Love" ("wife is half panties") tried to buy to try because it was felt really permeates was.
I was strong prejudice that blue-eyed soul, in the atmosphere for key surprisingly, I feel much better not Kotteri. If you think you feel like a little wind Seoul The band, like I had to interact with the Band actually lived in Woodstock. It was not quite remember, that you mention it, had also appeared in The Band The Last Waltz.

Again I tried again to listen to "Caravan" of recording The Last Waltz, The Band aside, I think that not so good to have something noisily and Van Morrison. "The Last Waltz" aside, there may be cohesive album, led by "Crazy Love". Since there is a sense of bonus arrived from the root of the unexpected follow.

What else do you need to know about Moondance?

Friday, 18 January 2013

Greil Marcus Interview

The More Intelligent Life blog has an interview with Greil Marcus about his scholarly Van book When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison.  Below are some excerpts from that interview. 


Greil Marcus's latest project, "When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison" is about listening, not criticism; an emotional response rather than cultural analysis. The result is a deeply personal book and a unique product of Marcus’s idiosyncratic fandom. Such affectionate attention is far from hagiographic (in one chapter Marcus tenderly but firmly dismisses 16 albums Morrison released between 1980 and 1996 as a total loss, a gap in which the artist simply had nothing to say). Yet Marcus takes care in examining what distinguishes Morrison's singular talent, including his “quest to evade and escape the expectations of his audience.” More Intelligent Life spoke with Marcus about the puzzle of Van Morrison and what it means to listen.

MIL: You call Morrison “bad tempered” and “self contradictory,” and you go on to prove it, whether it’s him telling audiences to shut up or, playing shows with the lights off, or your own suffering through around 15 years of poor releases. So why is he a worthy subject for a book-length work?

GM: Well, first I went back and listened to all of those 16 or 17 albums from 1980 to 1996, which in the book I essentially dismiss, to see what I had missed. And I was kind of unhappy to find that I hadn’t really missed anything. Like I say in the book, I think there’s a comparable period in Bob Dylan’s career when he just had nothing to sing about and it came across as contrived, and you can hear that. Oddly there were things Morrison recorded in a pretty similar period, say from 1975 to 1992, and didn’t release, and they were so much more powerful, and naked, than the things that he did release. Clearly he didn’t want that part of him out there in public. But then in 1997 he releases "The Healing Game", which to me was just a shock—it was so rich and held nothing back. When he’s not holding back emotionally he really takes flight, he begins to soar and burrow into it at the same time. So for a listener, it was all worth it to have this enormous pause and almost give up and then have him come back with something that was as good as anything he had ever done and maybe ever will do.

MIL: The book returns over and again to the notion of songs that refuse to settle or cease, which I think relates to that idea of continual present. It certainly seems to be what compels and confounds you about Astral Weeks. Is that what keeps you returning to his music?

GM: I had listened to his last album, Keep it Simple, before I started this book and I hadn’t really heard anything. But I went back and listened to it several times and this song, Behind the Ritual, emerged. Every time I listened to it, it got richer. Nostalgic songs by anybody tend to be self-pitying and false, constructing a paradise somewhere in the past that never existed, and this song does all that, but with such an intensity and such a sense of constantly returning to the same point of repetition emotionally as well as in the rhythms and the words that are repeated, that it escaped cliché. It became full of pathos and sorrow and loss that I was really touched by, and I was so happy to find that on his last work there was no diminution, or inability to, at least once, hit the true note. As to Astral Weeks, there are moments of musical sympathy, of people hearing and understanding and listening to each other, the musicians, on that album, particularly on the song Sweet Thing, that just strike me as miraculous and I just think ‘How could that happen? How could anybody anticipate what the next person is going to do? How could anybody leap off from what the person has just done into something so abstract and yet emotionally concrete?’ I suppose you could say I just don’t understand the music, and you could say it’s that inability to understand the music combined with an ability to understand it emotionally, that brings me back to it. That whole album is made with a delicacy of feeling, there’s a sense of fragility, that one wrong note could blow the whole thing up, and that they never do hit a wrong note, at least to my ears.
MIL: You don’t discuss Morrison’s band mates much during the book. Didn’t they make a big contribution?
GM: I don’t think there have been that many extraordinary people he’s worked with. There’s Pee Wee Ellis on The Healing Game, there’s Toni Marcus on Into the Music (the violin player), there’s Richard Davis and others on Astral Weeks. But I think what is really extraordinary about Morrison as a bandleader—and he’s a great bandleader—is his ability to open up areas of emotional and musical freedom for other people who may not be remarkable musicians, who may be pretty ordinary, where they are doing work that they will never find working with a more conventional performer. And it’s not just a matter of sparking them to live up to his example, it’s a matter of opening up space in an arrangement or a song and saying ‘Anything can happen. What happens in this song is as much up to you as to me.’ And that challenge has brought out wonderful things from people who are themselves maybe not remarkable.

MIL: Over the years Morrison has never been vocal about the politics of his native Northern Ireland, but in the book you do point to one moment where it seems his anger boils over.
GM: I don’t know what he thought, what side he felt himself on, if he felt himself on any side, during the time when Belfast was blowing up again and again and again. But there is this striking moment in St. Dominic’s Preview”, one of the moments when the song returns to Belfast and he says, “This time they bit off more than they can chew.” And this was written at the time of Bloody Sunday, when things in northern Ireland were absolutely horrendous. And you know, you listen and wonder who are ‘they?’ Does it refer to the IRA, the UDA, the British occupation? We don’t know, but it seems very specific and it’s sung with anger, disgust and hopelessness. And that’s a powerful notion that people are in over their heads, and you go back and forth between being very specific, but he’s not going to tell you who it is. And it’s the situation of absolute desperation and 'murderousness' that sticks, and that’s I think all he meant to let go of.

MIL: In addition to politics, Morrison has a history of being cagey about his song’s meanings when speaking publicly. Did that influence your move away from tying his songs to a social or political context, as you do in the chapter on Madame George?

GM: I didn’t try to resist it because it’s just not my bent to do that. I don’t read novels and wonder if this really happened to the writer and I don’t listen to these songs and wonder what in his life suggested or inspired it. With Madame George I present all kinds of interpretations that other people have made, really to say what a complete waste of time this is. It’s a form of protecting yourself from your own imagination to say ‘Well this has to be real. What really happened?’ instead of letting the song provoke you to imagine yourself into it. I think to tie any piece of work or art to the artist’s own life is utterly reductive and is a way of evading the power that work has had on you, trying to deny it in a way. Do you really care if Van Morrison had a girlfriend named Gloria? What does that add to anything? Someone says ‘I want to write a great song. I know. She’s going to come up and knock on my door. How do I get her there? I should call her name over and over again.’
MIL: The book’s subtitle says it’s about listening, and while you certainly have written plenty on the act of listening it seems very forceful here, from your admission that you’ve listened to Astral Weeks more than any other album to the comprehensive listings of recordings mentioned in the text so people can easily go out and find them.

GM: Well that’s what it’s really about, listening to the music. And if any piece of writing leads people to listen to the music, and listen more openly, that’s great. All writing is an imaginary conversation with an imaginary reader, and if I’m writing about a song and I’m playing it over and over again all afternoon and then somebody reads that and goes and does the same thing, then we’re having that imaginary conversation, and that’s very fulfilling.


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Van Fans Preferred

Here's an actual ad from craigslist (except for the photos. Diane Arbus took the one above):

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 Van Morrison fans preferred

Hey there. I've got a room to rent on Queen St (above a business) in Parkdale. Long story short I moved in with the lady and it didn't work out and now I can't afford the place but really want to keep it. It's a one bedroom but the way it's set up it can be easily turned into 2 bachelors with a shared bathroom and kitchen. Both rooms in the apartment are the exact same size we would just turn my living room into your bedroom. It's fully furnished you would just need a bed. I know it's kind of weird but if we meet and get along this will be a cheap, awesome way to live in the best area in the city. 

My lease is up in October and I'm not sure what I'm gonna do after so you could probably take it over (unless you want to come with me to California in my sweet van lol). A little bit about myself. I'm a 25 year old male musician with an awesome comic book and vinyl collection. I work full time in liberty village and I'm pretty quiet but also down for fun. The room is still a living room now but if you want to meet up and figure out with me what we can do I think that's the best bet. This is perfect for anyone moving to the city or the area and want to check out the Parkdale scene. Temporary is cool. No sketch bags please. Awesome ppl only. Van Morrison fans preferred. Available immediately. Street view. Let's do this.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Van Morrison & Linda Gail Lewis - Waterfront Hall, Belfast - 23/09/2000

Van's collaboration with Jerry Lee Lewis's sister, Linda Gail Lewis was always controversial.  (Ms. Lewis is an interesting character having been married nine times including three by the time she was 16!) The album that resulted from their collaboration, You Win Again, is considered by many to be Van's worst.  Concerts Van performed with Linda and her Welsh band the Red Hot Pokers were soundly criticised.  Most often questioned was the actual playing skills of the band.  Finally, the two had an acrimonious split with Linda claiming some pretty bizarre things about Van.  What follows is an edited version of an informative if somewhat unflattering  review of the September 23, 2000 Van concert held in Belfast. 

I'll give you an account of the recent Van Morrison gigs at Belfast with Jerry Lee's sister Linda Gail Lewis.  This 'review' will focus on 23 September.
I was a huge fan of Van's previous band, which was led by guitarist and strong backing vocalist Johnny Scott - seeing those musicians play was half the fun for me, to be honest. Van was the main reason for attending a concert, of course, but I loved watching each of the other extremely talented musicians on stage. I was shocked to learn that I had bought a ticket to a concert by a very different band, who did not appear to impress many fellow fans. I am also not a country fan at all. But I was full of admiration for Van for having reinvented himself and trying his hand at yet another type of music, and I was willing to give it a go and support him as best I could.
Then, on Friday morning as I prepared to leave for my flight to Belfast, I put on the new single 'Let's Talk About Us.' I had been rushing around, and the single made me stop. Sadly, this was not because I was so moved by the music. On the contrary, I was so convinced that it was utter tripe that I started to wonder whether I should bother to make the trip, which I could ill afford, and I resolved to sell my London ticket. I hated the music. Linda Gail Lewis' voice grated on me, and it seemed to clash with Van's. I could find no redeeming features until, thank goodness, Van was joined on the third track by good old Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber.  In the end, since the flight was pre-paid and I wanted to visit friends and that great city, I braved the trip, fully expecting to detest the concerts. I was wrong; they were great fun.

Van was booked to play the wonderful Waterfront Hall, which seems remarkably intimate because of its sensible layout despite its 2,235 capacit

The magnificent Bap Kennedy, elder brother of Brian and former member of Energy Orchard, which covered Van songs and opened for Van in the 80s, opened for Van on both nights with his band. I've long been a fan of Bap's, and I highly recommend his Steve Earle-produced Domestic Blues CD, which includes a guest appearance by Nanci Griffith (another tolerable country artist), as well as his next two CDs-one full of Hank Williams covers and the next full of songs inspired by Williams and Elvis Presley. Incidentally, Bap said during his Friday set, 'Do any of you know my brother?' Girls cheered enthusiastically, assuming he meant Brian, until Bap added '...Jimmy at the post office?'

Before Van took the stage both nights, an announcer introduced a special guest: Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein. No one really knew how to react. When he appeared on stage, it was clearly a comedian cleverly imitating him, then doing the same to Martin McGuinness, Ian Paisley and others. John McBlain is apparently fairly well known to the locals, and I am told he has opened for Van before. His jokes were, as you would expect, all political. The stranger I sat beside on Saturday who immediately struck up a delightful conversation with me, as Belfast souls do, told me that they always laugh at such topics--you've just got to, he explained. As Gerry he said: 'How do you pack a hundred Orange Men into a telephone booth? Tell them they're not allowed to march in there.'

His act was pretty much the same both nights, and on the second night, which I shall detail first, since I was more aware of it and it was slightly more fun, the Red Hot Pokers took the stage as he was finishing. I was thrilled to bits to see the magnificent Leo Green was with them, albeit without his usual radio pack mike (no leaps into the audience tonight, then). A sax with a radio pack did rest in front of Van's spot all night, but he never played it.

The Red Hot Pokers (RHP) were four men dressed in Hank Williams-era grey suits with long jackets that had velvet lapels. You could tell that Leo was only an imitation RHP as he was missing the velvet. 
Some wonderful things I can say about the show right off:-
(a) I got to see Leo and Van play together finally;
(b) I finally got to see Van play an instrument other than the harmonica;
(c) Van was in a great mood and chatted more (or more audibly!) than I'd heard before, and all of the performers had a fair amount of energy;
(d) I got to hear Van perform a lot of songs that I'd not heard him do live before, such as Jackie Wilson Said [even if you hate the 'greatest hits' lot, you must admit that is a wonderfully constructed song in terms of making you want to jump up and sing along];
(e) there were no steel guitars!!!;
(f) the show had clearly been changed so that it was once again a Van show with special guest Linda Gail Lewis (LGL), rather than a joint venture including numerous songs by her.  Realistically, I think very few if any people anywhere were spending that kind of money to see her perform. 
At 8.35pm, the RHP, including Leo Green, took the stage and gave a lively performance of Jump and JiveNed then introduced LGL as if she were her brother Jerry Lee.  She strolled on and stood singing Here Ever After before taking her place at the piano. Linda has a silly little girl's voice that often resembles a more powerful version of Minnie Mouse, but it is actually a decent voice live. I still maintain that the album--what little I heard of it over the weekend--sounds appalling because Van and LGL do not mix well on the recording. Live, however, things are vastly improved.
After playing tambourine for the first number, Leo spent most of the second, a slower LGL number called the Dark End of the Street (I suppose), searching a box of reeds for the one that would work wonders on that amazing saxophone of his. The Paul Double character switched to alto sax during this song for an impressive solo. The other sax on stage remained neglected in Van's spot.

At 8.45pm, Van joined them for the fourth number. He stood in the wings (well, stage left without curtains), wearing a guitar and smoking a cigar, which he threw onto the floor as he came on stage. He played electric guitar first, whilst the night before he never ventured from the acoustic.  But no matter how hard I tried, I could not hear his electric guitar contribution at all. Van and Linda launched into their new single, Let's Talk About Us, which was a hundred times better than the recorded single.  Also, Van's voice is always spectacular, regardless of what type of music he sings.
When they finished, Van skipped the middle man, that is, the role previously played by Johnny Scott who would have taken Van's whispered instructions and passed them on to the band.  As he frequently did during these shows, Van told the band via his mike what they were to play next, rather than letting the guitarist do that part. You Win Again, he said, and even with LGL adding what sounded like whining rather than vocals, the song worked.
Van slipped into his usual mumble mode to introduce These Dreams of You, which he sang mainly backed by the guitarist's vocals, but LGL joined in more subtly from time to time. The crowd really welcomed a song they knew, and Leo's tenor sax duelled excitingly with the alto sax.
The seventh track, about the only successful suggestion on both nights by the guitarist, was Old Black Joe, which Van coughed and almost laughed into the mike at the beginning. It started slowly, with the minute horn section almost standing to attention playing nothing. When they joined in, blasting away, full of energy, the hall got excited and everyone started clapping to the beat, Ned pretended he was Chuck Berry with his solo, and LGL did the first of many excellent imitations of her brother Jerry Lee on the piano. The crowd went mad when the track finished. Whether these songs were supposedly country or not, everyone was having fun. 
At this stage, Van changed to acoustic guitar and took the band into In the Midnight. The crowd began to applaud once they recognised it, and he stopped to say 'thank you,' and then eventually finished the song with 'Stop up and see me sometime.'
Then Van said that he wanted to explain the next one as it was the first single he ever sang on. Mervyn Solomon was in the audience, he said, and he was the man who allowed him to make it. Could the song have been Don't Start Crying Now? It certainly had 'Cry Cry Baby' in the lyrics. As soon as the spotlight hit Leo at any time, he gave an amazing solo, usually watched and clearly admired by Van, and shook so much that he seemed in danger of combusting spontaneously like a Spinal Tap drummer. Every time he played, the audience loved it and applauded afterward, even if a certain someone had already begun singing. The show really should have been a Van Morrison/Leo Green feature, with special guest LGL.
Next was another classic, thank goodness: Rough God Goes Riding, complete with another amazing Leo Green solo and, bizarrely enough, that Van Morrison bloke wandering into the realms of doing Clint Eastwood impressions, chatting about sarsaparilla and saying 'Listen, Punk, make my day!!' Everyone loved this performance. 
The audience erupted when they recognised the first line of Cleaning Windows and continued to clap to the beat throughout the song. The guitarist was illuminated for a solo that was not that exciting, but the baritone saxophonist played a mean bongo (or two) during the song--and I know it makes no sense but I am certain that I heard Van yodel after one chorus.  I had not been drinking,  honest.  
Next came a sock-hop slow dance number called If You Love Me, which resembled All in the Game at times, and included a great harmonica solo from The Man and a fabulous baritone sax solo from the bongo-saxophonist. The band followed that with the bluesy Baby (You Got What It Takes) which was, again, vastly superior to the recorded version. The audience again clapped to the beat of the song, and even loved the verse Linda sang on her own.

Van then said he was going to 'Pitch at Linda here--what are you going to do? ' and she led us into her song 1-2-3, I'm in Love Again, which could easily have been a Mary Chapin Carpenter song, at a very quick Jerry Lee Lewis pace, complete with Linda banging on the keys of the piano as her brother would. The guitarist added more Chuck Berry-type guitar, whilst Van remained just off stage, unbuttoning his jacket, removing his hat and allowing his sweaty balding head to be affectionately wiped down by a woman.
I am not sure of the title of the next song. It sounded like a Bill Haley type of classic, with LGL playing quickly on the piano, Leo blowing his sax so madly that he seemed to almost run permanently out of air at the end, Van returning with his acoustic guitar and singing about inviting someone over to his 'pad' and stammering out that I'm a Nervous Fellow.
Next, Ned Edwards, whilst still wearing his guitar around his neck, began to play the fiddle, and the piano started The Healing Has Begun, I believe. This was the only song where Ned played steel guitar so it did sound countryish, but it was bearable, and his solo was impressive. A roadie ran on, as he did a few times, to add a sheet of lyrics to Van's music stand. Leo's thrilling sax solo ended up somehow sounding just like a Jimi Hendrix guitar masterpiece. LGL started to contribute more, and Van looked, for the first time that evening, noticeably yet perhaps coincidentally disgusted. In fact, his back was to her almost all night, which hadn't been the case the previous night, and he usually faced Leo and the guitarist, rocking side to side more than I have ever seen him do. When Van directed the band to get quieter, everyone did except perhaps the drummer and definitely LGL, who was still plonking away on the piano fairly loudly, but I expect she'll learn! On the previous night, she even interrupted his introduction to the song by hitting a few notes in the piano, then said 'oh, sorry' and then launched back into the notes again so that Van gave up talking.

On Saturday, Van then gave us some marvellous finger-picking on his acoustic guitar, which I had always assumed he could not play better than a few chords on rhythm, but he sounded like the great fellow-Belfast boy, guitarist Colin Reid. Wow. Again, when he quietened everyone so he could sing the middle part, he had to do so over the din of the piano, as LGL just didn't seem to understand that she should follow his directions and not always fight to be the star.

Van impressed us with further finger-picking skills during the introduction to The Outskirts of Town. Van was in excellent voice on both nights, and here, he growled out at times in a method reminiscent of Them's original recording of Gloria, whilst other times switching to smoother, fuller B B King style vocals. Lee Goodall's alto sax solo sounded exactly like something that should be playing in a dark and misty alleyway in a Philip Marlowe film noir. This merged into, I think, C.A.D.I.L.L.A.C., with Van almost getting carried away on vocals.
We were treated then to a medley of Goin' Down to Geneva/Rainy Day Women No. 12 and 35/Brand New Cadillac. Van introduced the first part by saying he'd written the song in Geneva--then saying, no, in Montreaux, 'near Geneva. It' s about a singer from way back, Vince Taylor, and incorporating some other stuff along the way.' The beginning was loud and fun, and VTM stood back to allow the attention to focus on LGL for a change, who offered another Jerry Lee Lewis type solo on the piano. During Leo's inevitable solo, Van kept shouting towards him, 'Yeh!' and rapidly rocked from side to side as if he were a child's toy charged by Duracells. His own mouth organ solo was amazing, and the only choppy part of the medley was when LGL had difficulty following Van whilst backing his vocals. If he held out a note longer than expected, it seemed to throw her completely. I know it is not easy, but the old band read Van so well, they were amazing musicians.

Not for the first time, the guitarist suggested a song to Van, who refused it--in this case Van opened his arms and shrugged, as if asking how they could possibly do that. Sometimes Leo would suggest something to the guitarist, who would pass on the suggestion to Van using telephone game tactics, and Van would love the idea. In this case, the idea was Philosopher's Stone, including an amazing solo that surely sucked the breath out of Leo, and a lovely flute contribution by the bongo-saxophonist.
Jackie Wilson Said came next, and the audience loved it. Leo ventured into his normal hip-wiggling now, and fired away on his sax at the appropriate moment. Linda's vocals were fine, but again, they seemed to have too much presence, and it just didn't work hearing 'Ahm en hay-ay-ven' for 'I'm in Heaven', which is not her fault.
Ned then made his one suggestion that Van welcomed, Precious Time. However, I do just absolutely hate her contribution to this song. The harmonies she tries to add to the chorus are so different and so loud that it is distracting to the point that it made me think the song would have been more at home on a Shaun Cassidy album, and that scares me! The guitarist adds sufficient backing vocals, really.
Van then made the usual dreaded request for a big hand for LGL and 'big hand for the band,' and we knew he was off. Indeed, he went off stage and had his balding head wiped affectionately again. He returned after the band started the Rock and Roll Medley of, amongst other things, Shake Rattle and Roll and Roll Over Beethoven. The children--Leo and his fellow saxophonist--whipped the crowd into a frenzy and actually got us on our feet! Van left during this number, and Linda finished off by playing the piano for two seconds with her foot. It wasn't quite Jerry Lee, but frankly, how many women in their 40s or 50s could lug their leg up that high without an hour's stretching first?

That was it. An exciting, delightful, fun show. Not a Van classics show, but thankfully lots of Van and not too much LGL, who was fine, but not my reason for being present. The fun, fast and jamming, foot-tapping songs are welcome. I still think I will detest my copy of the album.
I'd also like to say how much I loved meeting my fellow Van fans in Belfast and seeing old friends, not to mention visiting such a magnificent city once again.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Van For Your New Year's Resolutions

The following article was created by Richard Keane and posted on the ezines articles site.  He mentions some great songs here, ones which don't get the attention they deserve. The site is worth a visit as it has lots of other Van Morrison themed posts among its thousands of posts by hundreds of writers.  
Playlist For Writing Your New Years Resolutions – Top 5 Van Morrison Songs To Guide The Way

Van Morrison, for all his curmudgeonry, has left us a gorgeous body of work, a common theme of which is rebirth and renewal. As I start to reflect on resolutions I’d like to make for the new year, here are the top 5 Van songs that will serve to comfort and guide me as I do.
Brand New Day (Moondance, 1970)   -   Like much of Moondance, this one seems to wrap you in a warm blanket – and a palpable sense of hope that something new and whole is on the horizon. “I’ve been used, abused and so confused… but I stood and looked, and my eyes got hooked, on that beautiful morning sun.” You may be sitting down to your pen and paper with some shame and regret on your shoulders – “Brand New Day” will help you shrug it off and begin anew.

Astral Weeks (Astral Weeks, 1968)   -   Van finds salvation in new found love and nature itself in one of his most mystical works. The finale sings of “another time… another place” but you’ll find sufficient wonder and peace in this one to inspire action today.
Starting a New Life (Tupelo Honey, 1971)   -   From the looks of the album cover, Van’s at peace on his farm with his family and some animals, but the reality was far from it. At any rate, Van seems to be aspiring to the pastoral dream of the album’s image, in spite of some significant domestic drama, with sweet songs like this one – “I’ve been shovelling the snow away, working hard for my pay, all I gotta say is we’re starting a new life.”

Spirit (Common One, 1980)   -   In another mystical gem, Van plays benevolent pied piper, directing us inward “to the one.” Interpretation of “the one” is up to you, but the affect is unmistakable – “you turn it around, you keep walking on.” (On a side note, if you don’t feel like shifting between albums as this list suggests, just stick with Common One, one of Van’s most spiritual – and underrated – albums.)
Wasted Years (Too Long in Exile, 1993)   -   This is a lovely duet with John Lee Hooker, a thought or two from a pair with a few years under the belt. Long time fans of Van’s recognise him as a very bitter fellow at times, but here a wizened man makes this heartening conclusion: “The great sadness, oh you’ve got to let it all go, live in the present, live in the future – John Lee ain’t that so?”

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Hello 2013

Looking forward to another new year is always both a positive and negative experience.  Negative, because we middle-aged people are particularly sensitive to see the passing of another year and one step closer to the inevitable.  Positive, because a New Year brings a new chance and a fresh start. 

As a Christian I'm an optimist.  A New Year brings new opportunities to try to live "the way" as outlined by a power tool-less carpenter named Jesus Christ.  That's right, he shares his name with the well-known swear word.  Coincidence?
I'm getting off my soapbox soon but to all those who think science has disproved Christianity please think again.  I'm amazed at what I hear as a commonly-accepted explanation for why the natural world is as it is.  For me, the formula "the big bang" plus "evolution" equals the closing of the 21st century mind.  Creation of the Universe is a very speculative area of science and some would claim outside the realm of science itself (since science is based on making hypotheses based on the observable).  While many in the public seem to accept the big bang/evolution dynamic, the twin theories are under attack from many inside and outside of science.  Some say a universe "expansion", not a "big bang", occurred.  Others are saying 100 big bangs or more occur every day in the universe.  Still other scientists are saying mutations never add information and therefore 'upward' evolution is impossible.  Yet these controversies and conflicts are ignored in the popular press. 
Like your DNA and unique fingerprint confirm - you're special
I once was a rabid atheist and now I feel differently.  The discoveries in the area of DNA and other investigations I've done have led me to reject the notion of the natural world got to where it is now as the result of a series of mutations and accidents.  As Richard Dawkins himself has said "No one really knows how the universe began or why there is matter and not nothing." 
I'm willing to discuss Van with anyone who writes and I'm also willing to discuss my philosophical/religious/scientific views with anyone as well.  I promise not to belittle any view because I respect the idea that life is a journey towards somewhere and no one person has the monopoly on truth.   

Friday, 4 January 2013

More Worst Of From the Fanpop Forums

Forums over at Fanpop are true anarchy.  Anyone, including the ignorant and ill-informed can say anything.  Many of the postings are accidentally funny, particularly the ones about Van.  At least it makes a change from the high brow analysis of people like Greil Marcus.  Here's more of the worst of the forums at Fanpop.  Do yourself a favour and go over there and post.    

Van and Women

Ray_Le_Blanc   -   Why don't women like Van Morrison very much? I've had women tell me that he's too depressing or that he's not good-looking enough. Does he really have to look like Ricky Martin?

rodstarr2001   -   Well, I don't know much about Van's personality but there should be someone for every out there. Van probably hasn't met one that 'clicked' with him yet. I mean Money and status is no issue, and he's not ugly or anything, who knows?

Russell_Howard   -   I think Van's fan base is 90% men, particularly the obsessives who buy every album and go to as many concerts as they can. But then that's men for you. They are the ones who get obsessed with things like football, computer games, chess, etc.
Dr_Watson   -   Are you talking about his music? I think many women find his voice too gruff and his songs too masculine. I get a lot of this at the clinic.

Darango_Mustafa   -   Women aren't the subtle creatures we men are. We should delight in our maleness. Van should forget women. Has a woman ever bought a Van Morrison CD? Never!!!!
Karl_Vernoff   -   Let's face it - Van is portly. He's short and obese but he's our kind of short and obese. We love him.

Della401   -   This is a very interesting forum. Full of clever lines. Like a cafeteria in a college. Know what I mean?
Knight_Table   -   Rich men can always find beautiful young women to feign love. It's a game.

Junior_Gynther   -   What's love? Women want love, men want sex. They will each trade one to get the other. Men say "I love you" to get sex. Lots of men are suffering erectile dysfunction because they look at a lot of porn.
Cal_Avery   -   The rise of erectile dysfunction is linked to porn addiction. Has any man not seen porn? Has any 12 year old not seen porn? It's sad isn't it?

minivan   -   Van doesn't have a computer. He knows nothing about that kind of thing. Music is his life.
Reebus89   -   Pornography is killing us. The weight of all that filth is pushing us down. Try to give it up dear readers.

Curl_Maxx   -   What is a woman? Van writes beautiful love songs.
Roosevelt   -   Van's married right? To Michelle Rocca right? With two kids right? So what's this forum about right?

Lunch With Van

Dr Watson   -   When eating lunch with Van who would you like to be at the table with you? Bill Clinton? George Clinton? Jordan? Becks? My choice would be a security guard so if I offended the great man he could be restrained.

Kor_Svenson   -   I think lunch with Van, Al Gore, Colin Powell and Obama would be great.

Kristopfk_Silo   -   My list would be Van, Jesus, Bob Dylan, da Vinci, Tom Cruise (so I could throw food at him), Miles Davis AND Koko the chimp.
Moore_Kleevar   -   I would like to take a bunch of would-be suicides. Then Van and I could talk them out of it. Easy.

Howard_Yeates   -   I think Obama, Michael Jordan, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Oh, and I would take David Beckham so I wouldn't feel so inadequate in such a group.
Della401   -   I would like to take my dog. I reckon Van favours the Roman style of eating - just throwing meat on the floor. My dog could clean it up.

Dave_Howard1961   -   Van doesn't want to talk to any of us. He's tired of fame. He doesn't "do" lunch.
Roosevelt   -   I'd like to see Van with all the Idol "stars". What a laugh when you compare his genius with their lack of talent. snort snort snort snort.

Worst Van Album

Ray_Le_Blanc   -    Ignoring the Bang reissues (they must make Van so annoyed!) I would say I don't have much time for A Period of Transition. What Van album do you like the least or hate the most or whatever?
Ray_Le_Blanc   -   I think You Win Again is a disappointment. I think all the Van "duet" albums are less than his best. Irish Heartbeat, Skiffle Sessions, etc. It seems he needs these musical excursions o keep his muse. But what we Van fans want is 100% Van.

Russell_Howard   -   I agree with Raymond Le Blanc. All the "duet albums" are pretty awful.  Don't like the country stuff much either. But he's got a great voice and can do anything he wants. He doesn't have to consult me.
Dr_Watson   -   I'm trying to buy every album and every single and EP put out by Van. I've found that there's gold on every album. But the albums I play the least are You Win Again, The Skiffle Sessions and Pay the Devil.
Karl_Vernoff   -   I think the albums where Van is playing with someone else, eg Georgie Fame, Dr John, Linda Gail Lewis, The Chieftains etc, are the worst. But those albums are better than a lot of performers' best work.
della401   -   A Period of Transition is terrible.

Jon_Jon_2000   -   You win Again is pretty bad, but all of his albums have some joy.
David_Howard61   -   You Win Again is bad. But there's always some good on a Van album.

Roosevelt   -   You Win Again is below par. Period of Transition isn't too great either. Some people dis Common One but I love it. Tell Me Something is awful, but is it a 'Van album'?

Gene_McNeally   -   I think You Win Again is his worst. But what about Van's 20 best albums. Absolutely fantastic.